New cases of the deadly Ebola outbreak have been confirmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The news comes just one week after the defeat of an Ebola outbreak in the country’s Équateur province.
Four cases of the transmittable disease have been confirmed in North Kivu province. DRC’s health minister says there is no indication that the two outbreaks are linked, but that assumption will be confirmed once the species of Ebola has been sequenced.
“It’s sad,” says Yap Boum, a microbiologist who works with Doctors Without Borders. Ebola was first discovered in the DRC in 1976, the country has had 10 epidemics since that time despite the huge leaps in monitoring and detection technology.
Outbreak close to border elevates fears
“Although we did not expect to face a 10th epidemic so early, the detection of the virus is an indicator of the proper functioning of the surveillance system.”
“Although we did not expect to face a 10th epidemic so early, the detection of the virus is an indicator of the proper functioning of the surveillance system,” a DRC Ministry of Health communique said. The current outbreak is taking place in Mangina, a village about 30 kilometers from the city of Béni, close to the Ugandan border.
The province of North Kivu reported the outbreak to the DRC Ministry of Health on 28 July. They noted that there had been 26 cases of hemorrhagic fever in the area, with 20 deaths.
Samples were taken from four of the hospitalized victims and analyzed at the National Institute of Biomedical Research in Kinshasa who confirmed the positive presence of Ebola. The last outbreak in DRC was stopped after 2 months, during which there were 54 confirmed cases resulting in 33 deaths.
Ebola Vaccine could prove worthless if outbreak is from other strain
An experimental Ebola vaccine was used in the initial response to the disease but it's unclear to medical experts if this assisted in the halting of the outbreak, however, none of the 3300 people who received it developed the disease. Surveillance and isolation are the most common methods of containing the highly contagious disease.
The experimental vaccine is made from the Zaire species of Ebola, one of the four that causes illness in humans. The new outbreak may be caused by one of the other three species so the vaccine might not be effective at all in the current situation.
Experimental therapies may be an option
The DRC Ministry of Health explained that they do have other experimental Ebola therapies at hand, but none of them are yet approved for clinical trials.
One of the most urgent decisions need to be made by the ethics boards is how and who will receive the treatment.
The source of Ebola is still a scientific mystery. However, it is thought to be animal-borne with monkeys or bats the prime carrier. Ebola spreads from human to human through direct contact with bodily fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from EVD. This can occur when a person touches infected body fluids or even material with the infection on it. The virus can also be passed through sexual contact.